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fire. Almost the whole of a considerable village, Wheaten Aston,
had recently been destroyed through a thatch catching fire and'
spreading throughout the village, for when the thatch is on fire‘
lumps of blazing straw fly in all directions. Its readiness to catch
fire had caused its use to be forbidden in cities many centuries
earlier. The townspeople of Hull in the reign of Queen Elizabeth
were forbidden to ‘theake with straw, reade, or hay, or otherwise
than with thacke tyle,’ and earlier, in the year 1212, a London
ordinance permitted tiles, shingles, lead, and boards, but forbade
the use of thatch of various kinds, as reed, rushes, and straw
(‘arundine,...junco,...aliquo modo straminis neque stipula’)1.

One cause of the disuse of thatch was the high price of straw
at the time of the expansion of English agriculture a century or so
ago, and at the present time in Surrey, according to Mr Curtis
Green, its disuse is chiefly due to machine reaping, which damages
the fibres of the straw and renders it unfit for thatching”.

Sentiment also came into the matter, for thatching was the
oldest form of roof covering, and the rule that the oldest fashions
are the least esteemed, in building construction as in dress, worked
against it in favour of newer materials, such as Welsh slates, and
in addition it was cheap and impermanent, true progress in building
being in the direction of cost and permanence. Palsgrave in the
year 1530 wrote ‘I am but a poore man, sythe I' can not tyle my
house, I must be fayne to thacke it.’ Mr Frank Garnett, writing
of the houses of the Westmorland ‘statesmen’ three hundred years
later, says that in such a home of slates they were only used when
the owner could afford to buy them, and that thatching with rushes
was much more common”. In the year 1880, Reydon Church, near
Southwold, in East Suffolk, was tiled on the side of the roof next
to the public road, but thatched on the other side where it could
not be seen“, as thatch was considered to be an inferior fOrm of
roof covering, and for many years English churches with thatched
roofs seem to have interested the readers of Notes and Queries, the
reason being, apparently, that thatch is thought to be too humble
a form of roof covering to be used on churches-5.

1 T. Hudson Turner, Domestic Architecture in England from t/ze Conquest to Me
end of tile T lu'rteeut/z Century, p. 282.

2 01d Cottages and Farmlzouses in Surrey, p. 24.

3 Westmorlana’ Agriculture, 1800—1900. 4 1Votes and Queries, 8th 8., VIII, p. 418.

5 In the Builder, 2 June [9]], there is an illustration, from a late sixteenth century
manuscript, of the temporary thatching of an unfinished large church or cathedral.

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